The Last of Us 1×07 Review: “Left Behind”

The Last of Us season 1 episode 7 review Left Behind
Riley and Ellie in ‘Left Behind’ (Screengrab: The Last of Us Season 1 Episode 7)

We interrupt our regularly scheduled programming to bring you a flashback episode and one that has been a long time coming. The Last of Us season 1 episode 7 ‘Left Behind’ is all about Ellie and gives us a little more context on who she is and a pivotal moment in her life that leaves permanent consequences.

Initially, upon the first watch, I personally felt that this was one of the weaker episodes. It just felt a little too slow at times, but upon having a second watch for this particular review I enjoyed it so much more and found it to be just as solid as every other chapter. 

‘Left Behind’ not only gives us a much-needed backstory for Ellie but it also creates a parallel between her past, as well as her present with Joel, and that cliffhanger from last week’s episode. We finally get to see a new perspective of growing up in a post-apocalyptic world, which I thought was interesting, and as it slowly unfolded, I found it to be charming. 

The name “Riley” was briefly mentioned once by Marlene in the first episode, and up until now, I’m sure everyone forgot about that name or figured we would just never learn who that was. Riley (played by Storm Reid) was Ellie’s best friend who left their QZ. And with some time passing, Ellie just figures that she’s dead. But no, Riley’s alive and back to bring Ellie on a date or as close to a date that “friends” could go on. 

The mall sequence is magical as the lights gradually turn on, illuminating Ellie’s face in neon as the shops of a forgotten era brighten before her. It’s very light-hearted and so interesting because, as the audience, we know these stores in the mall, but to someone growing up in an apocalypse, it’s so comedic to see Ellie lose her mind at the “moving stairs” aka the escalators. The dreamlike merry-go-round as the soft lights around them brings warmth and young blossoming love. It just felt so nice to watch. Even the excitement for the photo booth and being a whacky excited kid was so relatable and nostalgic.

But what truly embodied that feeling of nostalgia was the arcade. I lost my mind just like Ellie did because that pure adrenaline rush of arcades and tokens as a kid is so ingrained in my memories, and to top it off they have Mortal Kombat?! Sign me up! The set pieces were phenomenal. I mean seriously, excellent work!

The setting was astounding but what about Ellie and Riley’s chemistry? The two young actors are so talented in the way they play off each other as well as show every side of budding teenage love, the good and the bad. They dance to funky music, take wacky photos, and flirt outside of a Victoria’s Secret outlet, but on the flip side, Ellie experiences unimaginable hurt from Riley’s secrets of joining the Fireflies, and Riley feels torn between wanting to feel a sense of belonging but also to be close to Ellie but these two things simply cannot be. 

Where the episode truly shines is the introduction of the Cordycep attack that destroys their happiness, leaving bites behind for both. Bella Ramsey nails the pure terror and panic that ensues when she tries to rub the fresh bite wound away and the way her gaze goes straight to Riley and the terror of what she see’s that her friend (and lover) has been bitten as well.

Where Ellie is filled with rage, smashing glass in frustration and anguish, Riley is calm, melancholy, and accepting of their fate, as afraid as she is. This journey of theirs could’ve honestly ended had they decided just to end their lives together, themselves. But Riley instills a kind of hope in herself and Ellie to never give up and to cherish whatever time we have with the ones we love. The beauty in ‘Left Behind’ and a nice touch is that we don’t see how it pans out for the two; we are only left to assume what happens.

As we travel back to the present, it truly comes full circle as Joel is slowly slipping away, desperately telling Ellie to leave him, and as Riley’s memory fills her head, Ellie steels in her resolve that Joel is the one thing in this world that she loves and she will stop at nothing to keep him alive. It’s a major turn for both characters. It was touching to see that their relationship has truly become a father/daughter dynamic. I’m one hundred percent on board with it.

We have only two more episodes left, and I know they are going to be a wild ride! 

Author: Micah Carrillo

Micah is studying English and Digital Design. His love of geek culture spans across diverse mediums and genres. Comics, anime, films, you name it! He enjoys video games on the Nintendo Switch and Xbox.

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